Rush’s Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee might loathe disco and know almost nothing about rap, but the prog giants are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month alongside Donna Summer, Public Enemy and a wide range of other artists. As the band preps for a U.S. arena tour, Lee and Lifeson stopped by RS — and we played them a song by each of their fellow inductees. Here’s what they had to say:
LEE: I love this opening. This is an iconic guitar-rock opening. They came out playing rock at a time when not a lot of women were playing rock.
LIFESON: We toured with them in 1975; it was one of those co-headlining things. Ann Wilson has a very unique voice. There’s nobody like her.
DONNA SUMMER, “LAST DANCE”
LEE: This brings back memories of a terrible period of music to me. We were hardcore rockers, and disco was so counter to that. The divide was stark back then between disco and rock.
LIFESON: We’re not going to vomit listening to it now, as we might have back then. The arrangements of all of her songs are very well done, and her voice is fantastic. She was quite an accomplished painter as well.
RANDY NEWMAN, “YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME”
LEE: I have a lot of respect for Randy Newman. I think a lot of it has to do with his personality, and his style of piano playing. It’s like what Tom Waits brings to his kind of music, Randy Newman brings to this kind of music.
Popular on Rolling Stone
LIFESON: He came to our defense. One of his kids was a Rush fan, and I once read somewhere that he said, “I’m glad they’re listening to a band that takes time to craft their music and does something serious. It has some value to it.”
ALBERT KING, “CROSSCUT SAW”
LIFESON: This gives me goose bumps. It’s all feel. His vibrato. The way he plays the notes. How he chokes them out. This is a Clapton solo right here.
LEE: I never realized how much Clapton mimics him. What song is this? Clapton uses almost the same phrasing….
LIFESON: I got it. . . . “Strange Brew”!
LEE: When we began, we were way into blues guitarists. We used to play “Spoonful” in the early days because Cream did it. We got turned on to Willie Dixon from all those guys. Although I’m not superfamiliar with Albert King’s music, it brings back that period.
PUBLIC ENEMY, “FIGHT THE POWER”
LIFESON: I never listened to stuff like this, but I always found it fascinating.
LEE: You can groove to this. I know people that were really into this kind of music at the time and had lots of respect for Public Enemy. Obviously it’s a different way of delivering the message, and the rhythms were so infectious. I do a little rap on “Roll the Bones,” and even “Tom Sawyer” to a certain degree has a spoken-word intro. It’s not rap, essentially, but in a way it’s our version of it.
LIFESON: Yeah, we invented rap [laughs].